Rodney Robinson, a senior adviser for Richmond Public Schools and a former National Teacher of the Year, apologized Thursday for a since-deleted tweet in which he called U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s 2017 attacker a “true Kentucky hero” and said it was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s neighbors’ “turn to step up.”
In November 2017, a neighbor of Paul’s tackled him over a landscaping dispute, breaking several of the Kentucky senator’s ribs; part of Paul’s lung had to later be removed. The neighbor pleaded guilty to assaulting a member of Congress. Both Paul and McConnell are Republican senators from Kentucky.
“Due to my ignorance of the situation, I didn’t know Rand Paul was seriously injured in the altercation,” Robinson wrote in a public statement on Medium.com, in which he said the tweet was a “bad joke.” “I apologize for making light of his injuries. I do not advocate for violence against Mitch McConnell.”
Robinson added: “I often preach to my students and other teachers that the mirror is the biggest tool for improvement. You have to look into the mirror and ask yourself reflective questions and be honest with the answers. It’s time for me to look in the mirror and reflect on my recent actions.”
Earlier Thursday on Twitter, Richmond schools Superintendent Jason Kamras addressed the incident.
“RPS doesn’t condone violence of any kind. Period,” said Kamras, thanking Robinson for the apology. “Words matter — across the political spectrum.”
Robinson, who was named National Teacher of the Year in 2019, has championed recruiting teachers of color to widen representation in education. He has worked to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, curb high school dropout rates among students from low-income areas, and created a curriculum on the history of the Virginia Juvenile Justice System for his students, many of whom were incarcerated.
In August, Kamras announced that Robinson would oversee RPS’ efforts to recruit, support and retain male teachers of color, as well as help implement the school system’s racial justice policy agenda.
“For those who challenge my record of advocating for kids, I invite you to do more research on who I am and what I stand for,” Robinson said in his statement Thursday.
He added: “I will always advocate for children in America no matter their race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or physical ability. I was 100% wrong for the Rand Paul/Mitch McConnell joke and once again apologize for my actions. I own this mistake and hopefully my record proves this an anomaly to what I represent.”
Critics flooded Twitter with outrage that Robinson was endorsing violence against public officials.
One of them was Paul’s wife, Kelley Paul, who wrote that she was “so disgusted by this I have no words.”
She also called Robinson a “hateful thug” and tagged the founder of Twitter. The senator retweeted the post.
In a statement to local TV station WRIC, Kelley said Robinson’s apology was “woefully inadequate and disingenuous” and that he has “no business teaching young people.”